You’ve probably already seen her art somewhere on the Internet, but maybe it’s time you get to know her. Sensitive yet powerful, Dain Yoon has mastered the capacity and skills to create three-dimensional handcrafted and highly detailed art on her own visage. This young Korean refuses to use Photoshop; and still, her looks achieve this surreal, special effect-like appearance. Her mind-blowing talent lies in her precise, unique and exceptional realistic painting.
Some might label you a visual artist, while others describe you as an illusion magician, or even a makeup artist.  But what do you classify yourself as?
I would like to describe myself as an illusion artist. My artworks confuse viewers via surreal images by overlapping images and distorting perspectives, and it causes the viewers to see illusions when perceiving my artworks. So in this sense, I prefer to be called an illusion artist.
Do you remember the first time you ever did optical illusions on yourself? When did you first start?
I have drawn and made paintings since I was nine years old. I’ve always loved painting and was so used to drawing. Frankly speaking, it was what I was best at. I attended Yewon Arts middle school and Seoul Arts high school, graduating at the head of my class with the fine arts performance test. These art schools are the most prestigious ones in Korea. After I got into the Korea National University of Arts, I studied scenography. I had a chance to design numerous theatrical makeup looks and to draw on actor’s bodies.
However, after participating in numerous theatrical works, I strongly felt I wanted to do my own creative work, which was not a part of a play. So I began doing personal artworks, painting on the bodies of several models. Afterwards, I decided to draw on my own face because it is the strongest and most sensitive part of the body, where I can deliver delicate emotions. It’s also the most powerful, as it’s the first focal point during a conversation. And since I only have one face, it meant that I only had one canvas in the world to best express my individuality.
What exactly drove you to do the illusions?
I think the reason I started painting them is that I believe people live in an illusion. Many think everything is in their own subjective view. My illusions distort the reality and perceptions that are generally shared. Many people seem to think illusion means tricking others into something, but I don’t think about it that way. I don’t think of illusion necessarily as trickery but as a wider concept. Anything that seems slightly different from its original form could be an illusion.
For example, people putting on makeup can also be an illusion because it alters what they look like in a complimentary way. People are free to feel whatever they want to feel from my work. I don’t try to squeeze out a specific emotion; I want my work to be a stimulating experience. I want people to notice that they have been indifferent to certain things, and awaken all of their senses from what they have become numb to.
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Where do you find inspiration? Who are your idols and mentors?
I usually get inspiration from my own emotions or feelings. Both of my parents worked day jobs, so I had a lot of time to think on my own when I was a kid. Although everyone feels emotions, I was overly sensitive to them – to an abnormal extent. So when I started painting from a young age, back when I used to paint on canvasses and paper, the subject matter of my work was mostly about people and emotions. Some people write journals but I describe my feelings or emotions via my paintings. Maybe that could be why most of my artworks make people feel dizzy. I enjoy sharing my perspective about art and life.
You claim to not use other people’s help, going throughout the entire process all on your own. How long does it take you to achieve something you are proud of?
It depends. I usually take much more time when it comes to coming up with ideas rather than painting them. I also need to prepare and buy all the materials and decorations. For the painting itself, it usually takes from three to twelve hours. It takes so long because I work on my own body and I can’t just work a little bit one day and continue the next one, or next week.
What is the longest it has taken you and for what look?
The work that took longer was this performance I did in May last year.
When painting your face, do you typically mess up many times before getting it right?
I put in so much time, especially on sketching, and I don’t stop until I get the image that I want. Once the sketch is done and I’m satisfied, I don’t mess up during further painting, since I stick precisely to my sketch.
Not only do you do the artwork all on your own, but you also complete the whole process, from coming up with the design to doing the composition. You also take all your own pictures. What do you find the most difficult in this process? And the most rewarding?
Honestly, for me, all the steps are difficult. But I would say the hardest is taking the photo afterwards. When shooting the photo, I need to consider many things such as the composition, framing, posing, the decoration and background, and so on. Also, I always try to capture and show not the object itself but the object in the space, in the surroundings. And the most rewarding moment would have to be seeing everything I imagined and thought in my mind actually coming to life.
You enjoy painting on your own face, which is actually a distinctive trait in your art. Would you ever consider doing it on other people’s faces, and do you think you would enjoy it as much?
I have drawn on other people faces several times. It is just as fun, yet a different kind of joy. The difference is that when I’m drawing on my own face, I can only see my painting through a mirror, and that makes it much more challenging.
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You are a legend of the Internet. How would you say social media has furthered your career?
I’ve had so many benefits from using social media. Especially from Instagram, since it’s one of the best platforms for visual images. I found my artworks were well suited to this platform. I saw that my paintings could get popular because they immediately catch people’s eye when scrolling down; they stand out. Most of my paintings have gone viral. At first, it was mostly on Instagram, and then they were published on all kinds of worldwide media. Still, I think Instagram is one of the strongest communication tools these days.
Is there anyone you are particularly thankful for? Maybe someone whom you owe part of your success to?
I feel so thankful for my mom, who is also an artist. For as long as I can remember, she has always emphasized the importance of sense of humor, both for artworks and life. I think her philosophy has really influenced my artworks.
And last but not least, what are your expectations and aspirations for the future?
I wish to be able to continue creating my own works and to be an artist for the rest of my life. I want to leave a mark in this world by doing a kind of art that only I can do: not a machine, not another person, only me. And when it comes to the future, I really wish and dream to remain as a historic figure that can be a representative artist of illusion art in the Internet era.
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